Collins, Suzanne. Gregor the Overlander. New York: Scholastic, 2004. ISBN 1415510539
- Reader’s Annotation: Beneath the world we know on the surface of the earth, there lies another world, a world of darkness, and giant cockroaches, and talking bats. This is the Underland. Every now and then, an Overlander falls down to there–and if the fall doesn’t kill them, the giant rats are sure to do the job…
- Plot Summary: When Gregor’s little sister Boots falls down a grate in their apartment building’s laundry room, Gregor knows what he has to do: he jumps down into the darkness after her. When the two finally hit bottom, they find themselves in a bizarre world, unheard of in the sunlit world above: This is the Underland, and it’s inhabited by some very strange things. First, there are the giant cockroaches that capture them. There are also beings that look very much like people, except that all their veins show through their skin and their eyes are bright violet. And then there are the giant, bloodthirsty rats that want to take over the Underland and enslave all the other denizens. All this wouldn’t really be Gregor’s problem–except that there is also a prophecy that says a Warrior from the Overland is fated to save everyone from the rats. And the people of the Underland are convinced that Gregor is the fabled Warrior.
- Critical Evaluation: This is an exciting and imaginative novel, first entry in the Underland Chronicles. Gregor is an appealing hero, not too unbelievably brave, but also willing to pitch in and give it all his best effort, as well as being unfailingly devoted to his little sister, Boots. Boots’ character is another strong point of the book–she is cute and funny, without being overly precious. Collins is also good at writing for kids, hitting just the right mix of action, humor, and character development. A very well-written fantasy novel, with some fresh ideas.
- About the Author: Suzanne Collins has written for many children’s TV shows and cartoons; Gregor the Overlander was her first book. In addition to the now-completed Underland Chronicles (there are 5 books in the series, including Gregor the Overlander), she has also written The Hunger Games (2008) and its sequel, Catching Fire (2009), and a picture book called When Charlie McButton Lost Power (2005).
- Genre: Fantasy
- Curriculum Ties: English/Language Arts
- Booktalking Ideas:
- Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 10 and up
- Challenge Issues: none apparent
- Reasons for Inclusion: I included this book because it’s a very well-written fantasy with good characters that are both sympathetic and believably flawed. I also saw that the series received favorable reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal.
1) Tell about Gregor and Boots arriving in the Underland from the cockroaches point of view
2) Focus on how the Underland people live–what the city is like, bonding with the bats, etc.
3) Discuss the story of the Earl of Sandwich and how people came to live underground
Challenge Defense Suggestions: Though no challenge issues are apparent in this title, if the book were to be challenged, begin by reading it to become familiar with the content. Consult the ALA’s strategies for dealing with challenges to library materials for a helpful collection of information, advice, and links to other resources. In addition, review the library’s policy on challenged materials, and look for professional reviews of the book that could help justify its inclusion in the collection, or might explain how the questionable content is valuable. Look for positive reviews from professional journals on amazon.com.